Family Search Serenditpity
by Dale Pollart
Dale Pollart is a member of the board of MGS. This is an article that appeared in the November 2001 edition of the MGS Newsletter.|
My ancestors on my father's side immigrated to the United States only three generations ago. Yet, I had almost no information about the family history in Europe when I started my search. Conversations with my brothers, cousins, nieces, nephews and only remaining aunt yielded only a few morsels--the ancestor who emigrated from Europe was named Cornelus (spelling uncertain), he was born in or near Roermond, Netherlands (date uncertain), was married in that same region to Beatrix Thoolen (again, spelling uncertain) in April 1861, and they immigrated to the U.S. in 1863. A little more than a year later, thanks to a combination of extraordinary coincidences and incredible luck, I had a complete history of my ancestors in Europe back before 1300.
For several years of my business career, I traveled regularly to the Flemish region of Belgium. As a result, I had a number of friends and former colleagues whose native language is Flemish/Dutch. One in particular, Hugo Beesemans, whom I knew quite well and with whom I had continued to correspond, had expressed an interest in my ancestry.
I sent an e-mail to Hugo outlining the above information and asked if he would make a few telephone calls to the Town Hall to some of the churches in Roermond to see what he might find. Hugo made some calls and quickly learned that the vital records for the time period in question had been collected in Maastricht, the regional capital for the Province of Limburg. He and his wife, Jeanine, made two trips to Maastricht and found not only Cornelus and Beatrix's marriage record but also Cornelus's birth certificate, his draft certificate, his application for emigration and another tax-related document. It was thrilling to receive photocopies of these original handwritten documents along with Jeanine's translation. "In the year 1827, the 10th of the month of January... presented himself .. Antoon Pollaert, clog maker by profession... who declared a male child, born today ... belonging to him and Helena Bouten, his housewife, and to which he wanted to give the name Cornelus..."
At the same time, unknown to me, Hugo posted an e-mail note on the Netherlands Query Forum asking if anyone could help with information regarding a Pollart/Pollaert family in the Roermond area that had emigrated to the U.S. in 1863. After a few weeks, Wiel Pollaert in Eindhoven, Netherlands, replied that two members of his family had done an extensive ancestry search. A few weeks later he sent a copy of this family history, a marvelous compilation totaling about 100 pages, to Hugo and to me.
There are numerous branches of the Pollaert family in this document, several in the Roermond area, but not a Cornelus in the mid-1800 era.
Soon after receiving this information, my wife and I made a trip to Belgium. Accompanied by Hugo and Jeanine, we went to the Roermond area to see if we could develop a connection to Wiel's family tree. As you go back into this time period, the records are not in Maastricht but are in the various villages where the particular events took place. We visited the village near Roermond where Cornelus was born and two other nearby villages where, in the limited time that we had, we did identify Cornelus's father and his grandfather. Unfortunately, going back two generations still did not connect with Wiel's ancestry.
Subsequently, Hugo and Jeanine made two more trips to the area and were able to trace Cornelus's family back two more generations. At that point, they struck pay dirt. They had found the family in which one of the brothers was Weil's ancestor and another brother was mine. With this connection, we had my family history!
I do not have a complete translation of the history, but do have most of the basics. The earliest written record of the name was a Gheraert van Pollaer who was killed in a battle near Cologne in 1288. The name comes from the ancient village of Pollaer/Pollare about 20 miles west of Brussels. Over the years, the various branches spread in many directions but our branch seems to have migrated slowly east. They were in the Roermond area but still on the west (Belgium) side of the Maas River by 1600. They remained on the west side of the river in various neighboring villages into the 1800s when Comelus's father moved to the village of Merum on the east (Netherlands) side. Like most families, there were a number of Dukes and castles along the way, but Cornelus's father, as noted above, was a clog maker. Cornelus was a "plow man" in his early years; later he, too, became a clog maker. His official reason for requesting emigration turned to farming.
Like most genealogy stories, there is no end to this one. There is so much we don't know—why did Comelus come here when he did, how did he choose where he was going, why was he the only one of his family that left, and so on and so on—but it is incredible how much we did learn thanks to the diligent effort of two distant "cousins" the willingness of another "cousin" to share his family archives and the personal interest of two exceedingly generous, wonderful friends who also had the right language. I wish all searchers could enjoy an equal measure of good fortune.